Years before marriage and parenting, I had a life-altering experience of children that stayed with me all this time. A college friend, Marc, invited me out with his brother’s family. We went out to dinner at a nice (i.e. adult) restaurant. Since the children were small – preschool and elementary-aged – I wasn’t at all sure how the evening would go. They were captivating. Not because it was all about them. On the contrary. They enjoyed the conversation around the table as much as I did. Their ability to engage with the adults, to ask questions and listen, to offer their own amusing stories to the mix of talk was well beyond what I thought possible at their age. They gave me hope.
Parenting did not come naturally to me. I had a wonderful mom. There was no one like her. She had to work as we grew up and then had to take care of all that home management stuff on the weekends. With what time she had left, she mothered us very well. I just never knew how she did it. It was a complete mystery to me.
Our children came (2 biologically and our last by way of adoption) during the strong restart of home schooling in the US (late 80s and early 90s). With home schooling came a much more interventional parenting style. We were enthralled with the idea of keeping our children home with us to do and learn about life together. Through all their schooling years, with many of them living overseas, there were only a few when we actually home schooled, but I loved it…loved that time of discovery, and wonder, and endured the occasional exasperation at our struggle to master one subject or another.
Our parenting during those early years had a home schooling imprint on it. We even followed the 21 Rules of This House originated by a leading home school parent Gregg Harris.
The 21 Rules Of This House
by Gregg Harris
1. We obey God.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another’s interests ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything that God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we take something out, we put it away.
17. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house.
21. When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
This set of rules helped me parent. One thing I really appreciated was that the rules were not just for the children but for all our family. No double-standard. These rules didn’t mean we were defined by “Do’s & Don’t’s”. They just helped me not to be all over the place. I also had great parenting mentors and practical, loving friends (see Balcony People) who encouraged me through the challenges of growing up kids. I didn’t need help with the joys.
My friend, Marc, & our first-born. Our three at play in Cairo, Egypt.
Our kids and their mom and dad grew up together. We learned how to parent with them, and they learned how to grow into each age.
As the saying goes, they grew too fast. As much as I love them as adults, I miss those years together more than I can say.
Now our first-born daughter has her own first-born. She isn’t using The 21 Rules of This House although she values its impact on her own life. She has been reading Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé – a book on French parenting by an American who spent her new parent years in Paris. Her book chronicles those years as she observed French families, babies and parents. Her experience of these children reflected mine long ago with Marc’s nieces and nephews.
Through the years and in our travels, we’ve experienced different cultures of parenting, and what I’ve read in Bringing Up Bébé is definitely counsel to be considered. The author and mom ends her humorous story with 100 Keys to French Parenting. My favorite 15 are below:
15 of the 100 Keys to French Parenting
#10 – Give Your Baby a House Tour – orient your newborn to where they will call home.
#11 – Observe Your Baby – Get to really know your baby. Watch her.
#12 – Tell Your Baby the Truth – Help him know that he can always believe what you tell him. It builds trust and confidence even in wee ones.
#20 – Do “The Pause” – The French don’t let their newborns “cry it out”, but they do pause before rescuing baby from nighttime crying. The goal is to help the baby learn how to settle back down herself.
#32 – Everyone Eats the Same Thing – There is no such thing as “kid” foods on the every-day French table. They learn to eat and appreciate “adult” food.
#35 – You Choose the Foods, She Chooses the Quantities – No food battles. Children take a bite of what is put on the plate. They don’t have to finish it.
#41 – Dinner Shouldn’t Involve Hand-to-Hand Combat – When they’re done, they’re done. Release them from the table when they’re finished eating.
#46 – Teach the Four magic Words – Please. Thank You. Hello. Goodbye. – Learning from an early age to be courteous and empathetic to others.
#50 – Back Off at the Playground – Children are given freedom to play without adults hovering. Safety assured, but exploration encouraged.
#53 – Give Kids Lots of Chances to Practice Waiting – Teaching delayed gratification.
#60 – View Coping with Frustration as a Crucial Life Skill
#63 – Give Kids Meaningful Chores – This folds right into the teaching of my favorite book on adolescence (Escaping The Endless Adolescence).
#89 – Make Evenings Adult Time – As parents carve out time for their own relationships, they teach children to value the importance as well.
#91 – Say “No” with Conviction – When parents say “No”, they need to mean it.
#92 – Say “Yes” as Often as You Can – Saving the “No’s” for when they matter most.
I would love to hear about your parenting years with your kiddos. What helped you? Anything you would do differently? Would love to dialogue on this topic…just for fun. We as parents should lavish grace on each other; parenting is a big job…
And then they were grown…
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (now with Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting)
Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bébé
Home Schooling Goes Mainstream
Bringing Up Bebe? No Thanks. I’d Rather Raise a Billionaire
Uncommon Courtesy – Blog – Recommended Reading